The Constitution of India (26 January 1950), through various articles enshrined in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays down that:
• No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Article 24);
• The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age six to 14 years. (Article 21 (A));
• The State shall direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age and strength (Article 39-e);
• Children shall be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth shall be protected against moral and material abandonment (Article 39-f);
• The State shall endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years (Article 45).
The major national legislative developments include the following:
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986:, The Factories Act, 1948,The Mines Act, 1952, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000,The Minimum Wages Act, 1948, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009:
India is signatory members of the following;
• ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29);
• ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105);
• UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Many international and national agencies are making constant endeavour for the better tomorrow for children. Despite various actions, laws and conventions signed in the history of forming a better tomorrow, a little has changed. Many children all over the world still live in a poor, deprived, blemished condition. Millions of them works in factories, tea stall, fields, hotels, restaurants, fire work industries, private and public houses, garbage dumps and the list is unending. Child labour is ground reality in India. It is very inhuman, insecure and against law . Studying the problem in its root leads us to the fact that the predominant cause of child labour in India is poverty. Large number of children belongs to poor and weaker section of society where people are illiterates and unemployed. Even those who are working are not earning enough to satisfy their basic needs also. So putting their children to work lessens the burden on them to earn the basic livelihood and in turn gives employers cheap resources . This atrocious act has found place in developing countries like India, due to ineffective law framework ,lack of political will, less participation, lack of scrutiny and the eternal quality of taking things for granted unless it comes to you. Child labour is also encouraged by employers mainly because it is cheap and comes without much of liability. Often parents also offer their children to work to get rid of debt and lieu of loan. Parents thinks it profitable to send their children to work rather than school as they can contribute for the uplift of the family and further support the family. Racial discriminations and inequalities also results in drops-outs of children from schools .
Increasing industrialisation and urbanisation and soaring materialistic aspiration have also a say in this respect. In our history also we can find that children were sold and purchased as slaves of rich. Poor children are employed in well to do household work. In gurukuls children were asked to work for their guru. They had many responsibilities like begging food, bringing wood from forest, milking cows, fetching water etc but it was a part of their studies at that time. During 19th century, Britishers introduced modern industries in India and child labour suddenly caught up with the modernisation of industries. They did this because they found children more sincere and easier to bully into harder work, and they could also be paid less. They were made to work in very inhuman condition. Child labour contributes in choking mental and physical growth of children. They soon suffer from diseases like asthma. Tuberculosis, rupture of ear drums, skin diseases, they may even lose their limb or two while working. The whole system is responsible for plight of these children.
Both Indian constitution and international organisation believs that a human child should be given opportunities to enjoy the pleasures of learning and play at least till the time he or she completes 14 years of life . But this remains an unfulfilled dream. The country India has dubious distinction of being home to largest child labour force in India. News related to child labour are printed and telecasted every day. For example,” Labour Debt” (an organisation to rescue victims of child labour) rescued 5 children aged 14 who were working as labourer at roadside refreshment stalls. It also rescued a 13 year old boy working in manufacturing unit in an upmarket in Banjara Hills area. Children were being transported in the vehicles near Charup village near Patna ,where child labour met with an accident. Every year children from Bangladesh, Nepal and Assam are trafficked for life into coal mines in the state and made to work illegally. A recent report produced by International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, says that there are as many as 60 million children working in India’s agriculture, industrial and commercial sector. Nearly 85% are engaged in traditional agriculture activities.
Constitutional provisions and legislations alone however cannot combat the menace unless these are supplemented by comprehensive socio economic programmes and educational uplift, and total change in social psyche and attitude. On 21st July a National Summit with the agenda “India against child labour” was held in Delhi, to raise hands against all forms of child labours. It was a National Summit organised by the organisation – “Save the children”. “Save the children” and other organisations have been campaigning for the amendment of the current child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act which in its current form does not prohibit employment of children in agriculture, no matter how young they are. World Day Against Child Labour 2012: Human rights and social justice… let’s end child labour. This year the World Day against Child Labour will provide a spotlight on the right of all children to be protected from child labour and from other violations of fundamental human rights. In 2010 the international community adopted a Roadmap for achieving the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016, which stressed that child labour is an impediment to children’s rights and a barrier to development. World Day 2012 will highlight the work that needs to be done to make the roadmap a reality. On this World Day we call for:
• Universal ratification of the ILO’s Conventions on child labour (and of all ILO core Conventions)
• National policies and programmes to ensure effective progress in the elimination of child labour
• Action to build the worldwide movement against child labour.
Such initiatives by different organizations can be fruitful when the whole society comes together against this social evil, when the programmes formulated for them merely does not remain on paper.when laws will be implement strictly against those who are openly doing this crime. Let us join hands to gather for the future of tomorrow and for bright future of our children. Or else
Child labour and poverty are inevitably bound together and if we continue to use the labour children as the treatment of the social diseases of poverty you will have both poverty and child labour till the end of time.